NUNURAI JENA AND LESLEY WURAYAYI
OVER a hundred soldiers and Zanu PF youths who had been hired as census enumerators at the expense of civil servants returned home empty-handed after failing entry tests.
Sources revealed that in Chinhoyi, 120 Zanu PF youths, who were seconded by the Ministry of Indigenisation and Empowerment, failed to score above 15 marks out of 25 in the entry tests set by the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStat).
Sources say one youth scored four out of 25, while the highest got eight, way below the required 15.
Most teachers who wrote the same entry tests passed with marks above 18.
In response, the youths, together with soldiers, war veterans and members of the Zimbabwe Prison Services, accused ZimStats officials of using the entrance tests to bar them from conducting the count, which started on Saturday.
After failing the tests, the youths and the soldiers were replaced by mostly teachers, who had been unfairly dismissed after soldiers gate-crashed training centres, demanding to be recruited as enumerators as well.
ZimStats conducted the entry tests to measure aptitude and accommodate those who were not civil servants but had been seconded by government institutions and political parties.
A war veteran based in Chinhoyi, who requested to be identified as Cde Rati, claimed the tests were meant to embarrass the youths and war veterans by portraying them as uneducated.
“When we went to war, there were no qualifications required, but now they want qualifications because there is money involved. What’s so special about the teachers, after all they rigged the last elections in favour of (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai,” Rati charged.
The census process was also marred by allegations of favouritism, as some teachers accused Provincial Administrator, Christopher Shumba, who is also a Zanu PF provincial executive member, of recruiting political activists from his party.
They cited the inclusion of a local MP’s private secretary in the programme, yet he was not a civil servant.
But Shumba said the whole process of recruitment was done above board as those who were not civil servants had to write an entry test for transparency purposes.
In Bulawayo and Gweru there were reports that teachers were resisting working with the soldiers and Zanu PF youths.
“There is a lot of resistance to working with soldiers, as supervisors do not want incompetent people in their teams and the conflict is too much to handle,” a source said. “It has been suggested that soldiers should enumerate in barracks only.”
It has also been revealed that four journalists from ZBC have been included as enumerators, further raising questions about the independence and quality of the enumeration process.
Efforts to get a comment from Population Census director, Washington Mapeta were fruitless as his phone went unanswered.
Finance minister, Tendai Biti, was unreachable as he was in Mozambique for the Sadc Summit.
ZimStat has enlisted services of 30 100 enumerators, a majority of them civil servants, and acquired 700 vehicles for the 2012 population census.
The last census of 2002 census put Zimbabwe’s population at 12 million.
Soldiers enumerating despite failing entry tests
However, in some areas, soldiers who failed the entrance tests were still included in the count, as enumerators.
One enumerator at Kwekwe Primary School said a total of 16 soldiers and Zanu PF youths dismally failed the entrance test but were not turned away, as regulations required.
“We know soldiers failed the test because the highest had a score of eight out of 30,” the source said, adding that the process was fraught with irregularities.